Friday, April 30, 2010

MINARETS in Switzerland: Ban STILL "Completely Incomprehensible"

What could be prettier together in the skyline?(Photo: Steeple and minaret in Wangen bei Olten, 7 August 2009/Michael Buholzer)

As of the date of the 2009 vote, there were four minarets in Switzerland, attached to mosques in Zürich, Geneva, Winterthur and Wangen bei Olten. These existing minarets are not affected by the ban.

Dick Marty: "...to reawaken the ghost of a religious war is irresponsible". (From an interview in SwissInfo - see more of the interview just below)

At end of post is 1) a "surprise" and 2) an abstract of collegiate article on the topic just published end of April 2010 Photo credit goes to BBC - See a 2005 profile of Dick Marty here

“Something is culturally wrong in Switzerland” Dick Marty continued in the interview with SwissInfo.ch - Switzerland’s image as a country of human rights has been rocked by the ban on the construction of minarets, according to this Swiss member of the Council of Europe.

"Minaret Controversy in Switzerland" (See Wikipedia article by same title) refers to construction of minarets, which has been subject to legal and political controversy in Switzerland during the 2000s.

In a November 2009 referendum, a constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets was approved by 57.5% of the participating voters.[1] Only four of the 26 Swiss cantons,[2] mostly in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, opposed the initiative. (See other Wikipedia excerpts below)

Interview with Dick Marty with Swiss Info dot ch. Dec 9, 2009

swissinfo.ch: December 10 is Human Rights Day. What is your personal wish regarding human rights?

Dick Marty: That society in general becomes more aware of how important human rights are and that it requires a daily struggle to maintain these rights.

swissinfo.ch: You are known in the Council of Europe as a champion of human rights. How do they react in Strasbourg to the minaret ban?

D.M.: This ban is completely incomprehensible. I find it simply grotesque, because looked at unemotionally we’ve voted on a “non-problem”: in Switzerland we’re inundated by neither minarets nor applications to build them. Most Swiss had no idea that for a long time we’ve had four minarets and more than 200 places of Muslim culture or prayer.

More from "Minaret Controversy in Switzerland" (Wikipedia sourced article by same name originally posted before the ban won referendum vote late 2009):

...centre politicians mainly from the Swiss People's Party and the Federal Democratic Union, the Egerkinger Kommittee ("Egerkingen Committee") launched a federal popular initiative that sought a constitutional ban on minarets. The Swiss government recommended that the proposed amendment be rejected as inconsistent with basic principles of the constitution...

Non-governmental organisations

The Society for Minorities in Switzerland calls for freedom and equality. It started an internet-based campaign in order to gather as many symbolic signatures as possible against a possible minaret ban.[22] Amnesty International warned the minaret ban aims to exploit fears of Muslims and encourage xenophobia for political gains. "This initiative claims to be a defense against rampant Islamification of Switzerland," Daniel Bolomey, the head of Amnesty’s Swiss office, said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP). "But it seeks to discredit Muslims and defames them, pure and simple."[23] Economiesuisse finds an absolute construction ban would hit Swiss foreign interests negatively. It points to the fact that only the launch of the initiative caused turmoil in the Islamic world.[citation needed] The Swiss-based "Unser Recht" association publishes a number of articles against a minaret ban.[24] In autumn 2009, the Swiss Journal of Religious Freedom launched a public campaign for religious harmony, security, and justice in Switzerland. It distributed several thousand stickers in the streets of Zürich for the right to religious freedom.[25].
[edit]

Religious organisations

Catholic bishops oppose a minaret ban. A statement from the Swiss Bishops Conference said that a ban would hinder inter-religious dialogue and added that the construction and operation of minarets were already regulated by Swiss building codes. The statement requested that "the initiative to be rejected is based on our Christian values and the democratic principles in our country."[26] The official journal of the Catholic Church in Switzerland publishes a series of articles on the minaret controversy.[27] The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches holds that the popular initiative is not about minarets, but is rather an expression of the initiators’ concern and fear of Islam. It views a minaret ban as a wrong approach to overcome such objections.[28] The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities are also against any ban on building minarets. Says Dr Herbert Winter, the president of the Federation: “As Jews we have our own experience. For centuries we were excluded: we were not allowed to construct synagogues or cupola roofs. We do not want that kind of exclusion repeated.” [29]. Many other religious organisations find the idea of a complete minaret ban as lamentable.[30] These are: the Association of Evangelical Free Churches and Communities in Switzerland; the Swiss Evangelical Alliance; the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland; the Covenant of Swiss Baptists; the Salvation Army; the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Switzerland; the Orthodox Diocese the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; the Serbian Orthodox Church in Switzerland; and the Anglican Church in Switzerland.[30].

Interview with Dick Marty Continued:

D.M.: The ban touches on the freedom of religion and religious peace. In the past our country suffered terribly from religious wars, and for me waking this ghost is irresponsible and dangerous. In the [financial] crisis there’s a risk that people’s frustrations get channeled here.

It’s not easy explaining the minaret result abroad. I always try to show that the Libyan affair played a big role [two Swiss businessmen have been held hostage in Libya since July 2008 following the Geneva arrest of the son of Moammar Gaddafi, despite an apology from Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz].

And I promise that we’re doing everything possible to restore Switzerland’s credibility. We need to change the way we discuss politics. The parties to the left and in the centre need to sit down and work out how to stop this “politics of emotion” and return to the real issues.

swissinfo.ch: A popular vote is in the pipeline that will decide on whether people without Swiss passports who commit a crime will be automatically deported. Where does this trend for such initiatives come from?

D.M.: Following [November 2008's] initiative to extend indefinitely the statute of limitations for paedophile crimes, the minaret initiative is already the third people’s initiative to violate basic rights and the human rights convention. Looked at objectively all three are stupid.

Because the politicians are not in the position to solve the right problems, they increasingly play with emotions. For me the most dramatic problem at the moment is youth unemployment. Civilised societies should give young people a right to work. We should vote on that.

I’m pinning the blame not just on the Swiss People’s Party [the rightwing party that backed the minaret initiative] – the other parties are just as responsible because they aided and abetted this game. They didn’t get very involved in the minaret campaign – nor did the government. The whole thing was underestimated – although the danger was clear. Instead they were more occupied with the ban of war exports [which was rejected].

swissinfo.ch: The debate has resurfaced on whether people should be able to vote on fundamental human rights. Are tighter laws necessary?

D.M.: Actually no – we just need a government that has the knowledge and courage to apply the fundamentals of our constitution.

I maintain however that the government is not in the position to do that, and I therefore wonder whether we don’t need a constitutional court, like virtually all democracies in the world. This would provide control and balance between the various state powers. It would also prevent decisions being taken according to the emotion of the moment.

The situation is even more blatant with the deportation initiative than with the minarets. It is clearly going to violate non-refoulement, a fundamental principle of international and humanitarian law [that concerns the protection of refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened]. That the government cannot see this, I find absolutely scandalous.

swissinfo.ch: The presidency of the Council of Europe is currently held by Switzerland, which has traditionally pushed for human rights. Is Switzerland still credible, following the minaret vote?

D.M.: Yes, but our task has been made considerably harder. We are credible because this decision was actually taken by the people.

Nevertheless I believe our position has been weakened. Above all we’ve lost this image of democracy. In this respect the vote on November 29 has been a disaster.

The dramatic thing is that there have only been losers: Muslims, the Swiss abroad, the economy.

The yes to the minaret ban is a sign that something is emotionally and culturally wrong in Switzerland. It is the sign of a society that has become weak. A weak society always needs an enemy to hate. The Muslims have now filled that role – it’s as if everything bad is the fault of the Muslims.

People forget that in the past 100 years the worst massacres, such as the Second World War or Srebrenica, were carried out by Christians.

swissinfo.ch: What will happen if the minaret ban goes to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and is rejected?

D.M.: There are three possibilities: we don’t implement the ban, we vote again, or we have to leave the Council of Europe.

If we want to behave like an honest signatory – and that was always Switzerland’s policy – we have to say that in this case we are not in a position to implement the human rights convention properly.

You can’t pick and choose basic rights. They are non-negotiable.

END interview with Dick Marty (Above interview translated from German by Thomas Stephens) MUCH earlier and Related Stories (Find all these - if still archived - at SwissInfo.ch)

# ^ NZZ 26 February 2010; Yahoo News, 25 February 2010; Colonel Gaddafi calls for jihad against Switzerland World condemns Gaddafi's call for jihad against Switzerland The Daily Telegraph, 25 February 2010.
# ^ http://www.en.rian.ru/world/20100304/158086201.html
# ^ Turkey calls on Muslims to withdraw money from Swiss banks
# ^ http://www.en.rian.ru/world/20091130/157042962.html
# ^ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3815375,00.html
# ^ UN council targets Swiss anti-minaret vote

SEE Wikipedia, SwissInfo.ch and MuslimMatters.org for more references

Of FURTHER Interest:

SURPRISE: SWISS ANTAGONIST OF MINARETS EMBRACES ISLAM
Swiss initiator of opposing Masjid (Islamic) Minarets - accepts Islam
He drove fiercely for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and wanted to lock the mosques in Switzerland. ... However, from within their own ranks, a man is now working for the promotion of Islam and its teachings. The law of a country can ban minarets but not minds and hearts. Find this article here

NEW ACADEMIC ARTICLE just out:

Panacea or Pathetic Fallacy? The Swiss Ban on Minarets
By Lorenz Langer - Yale Law School

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, 2010

Abstract:
On November 29, 2009, Swiss voters adopted a ballot initiative introducing a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets. The supporters of the initiative had argued that minarets were not a religious symbol, but a token of power and conquest: banning them would halt the creeping Islamisation of Switzerland. The ban’s opponents had warned that the ballot initiative violated national and international provisions on non-discrimination and the free exercise of religion.

This article provides a thick description of the context in which the minaret vote took place. First, a legal analysis addresses the implications of the ban under national, regional and international normative frameworks. It is argued that the ban is irreconcilable with the constitutional bill of rights and several international human right provisions. However, in contrast to state ballots in the United States, there is no judicial review of initiatives in Switzerland; respect for the vox populi trumps any concern over conflicting international obligations. A historical analysis will help to explain how, through its excessive emphasis on popular sovereignty, the peculiar myth-system underlying modern-time Switzerland has facilitated the banning of minarets.

Mosques and minarets, however, also cause controversies elsewhere. The fears that fueled the prohibition of minarets in Switzerland are widespread in Europe. I set out how hostility to Islam is partly rooted in historical traditions, partly due to disagreement over how to integrate newcomers into Western society, and I suggest an approach that carefully balances expectations of Muslim adaption with a less exclusive construction of European identity.

Date posted: April 24, 2010 ; Last revised: April 27, 2010

Langer, Lorenz, Panacea or Pathetic Fallacy? The Swiss Ban on Minarets (April 24, 2010). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, 2010 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1594192

Contact Information
Lorenz Langer (Contact Author)
Yale Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trials of US Detainees Fahad Hamshi ; Omar Khadr: "new set of rules" for the Commissions?


Omar Khadr
- According to court artist Janet Hamlin courtesy of The Globandmail - Find mainstream media article Khadr here Headline is representative of mainstream news



This great photo found at Andy Worthington's site where there's a crucial article today on Fahad's case (See item just below.)

What's better Military Commissions or Trial by Federal Court? More complicated than Rights experts thought...

US Government Plea Bargain - brief update in Fahad Hamshi Case - THAW (Theaters Against the War, international) also announces the next vigil in Lower Manhatten NY -May 3 despite the cancellation of the trial. See here Or go directly to THAW here

MORE on the Fahad Hamshi Case by Andy Worthington Be sure also to see the "Comment Exchange" where Andy indicates he may be more open to commissions as compared to Federal Courts given what just happened to Fahad (and I would add to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui during her 3-week trial er Kangaroo Court as well) However, see the new potential "loopholes" below in this update with the release just out by Human Rights First. here

04/28 / Human Rights First dot org: Press Release: DOD Issues Newest Set of Rules; For MILITARY COMMISSIONS TRIBUNALS LIKELY TO FACE FURTHER CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES - READ here

Intro into the Omar Khadr case here and GO to earlier Amnesty
report here

See Related NEW Amnesty International Release here

(Also watch Andy Worthington's site next week which may well cover some of Omar's case: andyworthington dot co dot uk or GO here

See these and more at nogitmos dot org
Reports about Omar Khadr Military Tribunal: (there are many now available)
04/29 / Al Jazeera / 'US seeks deal' in Guantanamo case
04/28 / Daphne Eviatar / Firedoglake / Omar Khadr hearing, update, April 28, 2010
04/28 / Steven Edwards / Canwest News Service (Canada) / 25- to 40-year jail term among terms offered in Khadr plea bargain

FIND ALL THE ABOVE here

Find more ongoing RIGHTS items related to the "war on terror" and human rights at nomorecrusades dot blogspot dot com or GO here

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The one who tastes, knows (for discussion:)



Gratitude for the above photo goes to this site: here

Reality

In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

- Rabia al Basri

"HOW LONG WILL YOU KEEP POUNDING ON AN OPEN DOOR?"

One biography among many: here

Torture Program USA - Pending Investigation - Center for Constitutional Rights Wants to be Party

CCR Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court’s Investigations into Bush Administration’s Torture Program

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

Madrid, April 27, 2010 – Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a motion with Spain’s national court (Audencia Nacional) seeking to intervene as a party (Acusación Popular) in the criminal investigation currently pending in Spain into the torture program conducted by the United States during the Bush Administration. Initiated in April of 2009 by Judge Baltasar Garzón, the investigation focuses on the torture and abuse of four former Guantánamo detainees, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen, Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna and Omar Deghaye, each with strong ties to Spain. The investigation will examine what Judge Garzón described as “an approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment” and thus can encompass the torture that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. run black sites around the world. Mr. Ahmed is a Spanish citizen and Mr. Ikassrien had been a Spanish resident for more than 13 years.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo and has represented plaintiffs who have been subjected to every facet of the United States’ torture program, from Guantánamo detainees to Abu Ghraib torture survivors, and victims of extraordinary rendition and CIA ghost detention. CCR has represented former detainees in U.S. federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings and civil actions, seeking habeas relief, injunctions or damages. It bases its motion to intervene on vast experience working on these issues on behalf of its clients

“For eight long years we have fought to redress the brutal, inhumane and illegal acts perpetrated against our clients but have been blocked at every turn by both the Bush and Obama administrations,” said CCR President Michael Ratner, who filed the first habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of a Guantanamo detainee in 2002. “We come to Spain in pursuit of nothing less than justice, which, sadly, is not available in the United States.”

CCR staff attorney and lead counsel in the action, Katherine Gallagher, added: “The purpose of the intervention is multi-fold: to pursue justice and accountability for egregious international law violations in a forum that is willing to exercise jurisdiction over the case, and to press the message that no one is above the law and that impunity cannot stand, even if the U.S. is unwilling to prosecute the crimes.”

Judge Garzón’s investigation is parallel to a separate case in which a fellow magistrate, Judge Eloy Velasco, must decide whether the National Court can pursue a criminal investigation against six senior U.S. officials, including attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, for allegedly approving the use of torture. Separately CCR, jointly with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), is filing an expert opinion today with Judge Velasco urging him to retain jurisdiction over the investigation due to the failure of the United States to conduct independent, thorough or impartial investigations into the torture program and the ongoing failure of the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible for the torture program. The opinion states:

“the U.S. has utterly failed in its obligations to initiate an effective investigation or prosecution against the specific defendants in this case or on behalf of the named plaintiffs or other victims of the U.S. interrogation, detention and torture policies. This unfortunately remains the case under the Obama Administration. Furthermore, both the Obama and Bush Administrations have actively sought to block all efforts on behalf of victims of the detention, interrogation and torture policies from having their day in court, when in the context of habeas proceedings or civil actions. Spain, therefore, can and indeed, must, exercise its jurisdiction over the named defendants for the violations alleged in this case.”

The expert opinion also examines the scope of universal jurisdiction, and determines that because of the nature of the crimes alleged and Spain’s obligations as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and Convention Against Torture, in particular, it should retain jurisdiction over this case.

In his decision opening the investigation, Judge Garzón called the torture program “an authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic rights of any detainee, set out and required by applicable international conventions…” On January 27, 2010, Judge Garzón issued a decision in which he ruled that Spain had jurisdiction and the investigation into complaints filed could proceed. Judge Garzón based this finding in part on the Spanish citizenship and residency in Spain of two of the victims, and also cited the previous relationship between the victims and Spain due to the request for their extradition issued by Spain. Judge Garzón also found that opening an investigation was proper given the nature of the crimes – including torture – under universal jurisdiction principles, despite the amendment to the Spanish law in November 2009. His decision also takes note of the Letters Rogatory that were sent to the United States and United Kingdom on May 15, 2009, inquiring about possible investigations into these cases as well as into the possibility that the victims could initiate criminal proceedings themselves. Neither country responded.

The Center for Constitutional Rights will be represented in these proceedings by Spanish lawyers, including Gonzalo Boye of Boye-Elbal y Asociados.

For more information on the investigations of U.S. torture pending in Spain, see: www.ccrjustice.org/spain-us-torture-case.

For more information on CCR’s work to hold U.S. officials accountable using universal jurisdiction, see: (Case Against Rumsfeld - GO here.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 50 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Breaking the Silence: Jewish Groups Calling for Peace



"If the sword then not the book; if the book then not the sword." This beautiful and moving work of art with this motto is from Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence. Find related efforts for Jewish/Israeli Peace below. Although much of the effort highlighted has been going on for quite awhile, the increasing vocal expressions with Judge Goldstone's Report (on Gaza) give the impression that at last there is a "Breaking the Silence"

Within The Shomer Shalom Daily Intention find the following excerpts:

I am responsible for safeguarding the life and well-being of my sister and brother.

I disavow the use of any form of physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual or economic violence toward myself and others, and hereby accept upon myself the way of non-violence/shmirat shalom. I do this of my own free will...

I choose to live by the principle that prayer is intended to cultivate peace. I will practice prayer...

Holy Days are intended to cultivate peace...

I choose to live by the principle that our capacity for love and nonviolence is necessary for peace. I will practice love and nonviolence for all people...

I am a conscientious objector to war.

I choose to live by the principle that the earth and all that is in it is sacred.

May peace prevail upon the earth quickly and in our day. Amen

Find out more here

A Bibliography of Jewish Nonviolence GO here

More on Shomer-Shalom activisties - including an interfaith peace camp. here

The following is the Sister Community in Israel which has been "Goosebump" Moving to me for years now here
==============================

Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)

Note from Connie, oneheartforpeace blogger: I have since my early youth been struck by this passage from Isaiah above. So far 1,153 (One thousand and one hundred and fifty three) people have signed onto this fast for peace. I am the three at the end of that number. Your name can also show up immediately after signing.

Background:

Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being spilled (Leviticus 19:16).

As Jews and people of conscience, we can no longer stand idly by Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza...

(According to a highly-respected Israeli peace community, B'Tselem, "Israeli security forces killed 1,387 Palestinians during the course of the three-week operation. Of these, 773 did not take part in the hostilities, including 320 minors and 109 women over the age of 18. Of those killed, 330 took part in the hostilities, and 248 were Palestinian police officers, most of whom were killed in aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the operation...Behind the dry statistics lie shocking individual stories. Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes; relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighborhoods were obliterated..."(B’Tselem who declared these figures, has endorsed this Fast for Gaza.)

On three things the world stands: on justice, on truth, and on peace (Mishnah Avot 1:18).

From this we learn that justice, truth and peace are interdependent and irrevocably intertwined. Thus we cannot separate our call for justice in Gaza from the painful truth of this conflict and the ongoing tragedy of war in this tortured region. We condemn Hamas’ deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians. Out of the same ethical commitments we also condemn the use of much greater violence by the Israeli government, causing many more deaths of Palestinian civilians. Since the end of Israel's recent military campaign, the severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza has grown all the more dire.

The Fast:

In Jewish tradition a communal fast is held in times of crisis both as an expression of mourning and a call to repentance. In this spirit, Ta’anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for Gaza is a collective act of conscience initiated by an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, people of faith, and all concerned with the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

This water-only fast will take place on the third Thursday of the month, beginning on July 16, 2009, from sunrise to sunset. In addition to signing on to the statement above, participants are asked to donate the money they save on food to the Milk for Preschoolers Campaign of the American Near Eastern Refugee Aid (ANERA). This important relief campaign combats malnutrition among Gazan preschool children through daily provisions of fortified milk and high energy biscuits.

Upcoming Fast Days:
Thursday May 27th
Thursday June 17th

Those who are unable to fast for the entire day are encouraged to engage in a partial fast or to find their own meaningful ways to observe the day. Participants may also initiate public events in different communities that will further the goals of the fast.

We invite additional rabbis to join our minyan and ALL people of conscience to join in the fast. To be listed as a supporter of the fast, please fill out the form below. Your email address will not be displayed on the list of supporters. Join this collective act of conscience initiated by... people of faith.

SIGN ON here

=============================

The larger one shows:
Rabbi David Brodman and Sheikh Al-Zorba, Imam of Dome of the Rock

These two photos are from World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace
=================================================
A special greeting and expression of gratitude to Rabbi Phillip Bentley who signed here below. Rabbi Bentley once came to Brevard, NC and showed a peace film on a trip he took into the occupied territories. His congregation has been one of the few religious gatherings in North Carolina, USA (1/2 hour from where I live) to have displayed a strong anti-torture banner. Shalom, Rabbi!
=================================================

Rabbis Condemn Israel for War Crimes Committed in Gaza: Open Letter to Judge Goldstone (Personal Note Added)

Judge Goldstone, South African Judge -- Photo credit to Wikipedia

Richard J. Goldstone (born October 26, 1938) is a former South African Constitutional Court judge[1]. He served as the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda from 15 August 1994 to September 1996,[1] and in 2009 led an independent fact-finding mission created by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the Gaza War.

Dear Judge Goldstone,

As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we want to extend our warmest mazel tov to you as an elder in our community upon the Bar Mitzvah of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a call to conscience, a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfill the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.

As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the Report you authored. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel’s quote, “The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace as it says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be established in your gates’ (Zaccariah 8:16).” We affirm the truth of the report that bears your name.

We are deeply saddened by the controversy around the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that presents strong evidence that during the war in Gaza Israel engaged in war crimes that revealed a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s claim of security. Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centers.

This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories sees this truth immediately.

Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.

This letter is endorsed by Taanit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and the Shalom Center.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza
Rabbi Brian Walt, Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza
Rabbi Haim Beliak
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun Community
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Phyllis Berman
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Rabbi Douglas Krantz
Rabbi Eyal Levinson
Rabbi Mordecai Liebling
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi David Shneyer
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Rabbi Erin Hirsh
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Linda Holtzman
Rabbi Ayelet S.Cohen
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker
Rabbi Nina H.Mandel
Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Rabbi Everett Gendler
Rabbi Meryl M. Crean
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
Rabbi Pamela Frydman Baugh
Rabbi Lewis Weiss
Rabbi Shaul Magid
Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav
Rabbi Phillip Bentley
Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy
Rabbi Chava Bahle

This letter is supported by Taanit Tzedek- Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and the Shalom Center.

If you are a rabbi and would like to add your name to this statement, send an e-mail to Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb (rabbilynn at earthlink dot net).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fahad Hashmi's Trial Begins Wednesday: Open Letter from Officials

The Center for Constitutional Rights, The Council of American Islamic Relations-New York, and Amnesty International released an open letter expressing concern over Fahad Hashmi's upcoming trial which begins this Wednesday. The letter urges the Attorney General, Eric Holder to both review and revise Department of Justice regulations which govern the implementation of Special Administrative Measures. SAMs can be imposed on inmates past 120 days when the Department of Justice deems it reasonably necessary “because there is a substantial risk that an inmates communication or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons or substantial property would entail the risk of death or serious bodily injury to persons.” The open letter expresses concern over whether Fahad has even been informed of the reasons for the imposition of the SAMSs.

View the open letter at: here Rights Groups Issue Open Letter on Upcoming NYC Trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi and Severe Special Administrative Measures

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

April 23, 2010, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, and the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY released an open letter today expressing their serious concerns about the trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi, set to begin on April 28. The human rights organizations discuss Mr. Hashmi’s severe conditions of confinement over the last three years in which he has awaited trial, their impact on his mental health, and his ability to effectively participate in his own defense.

The material support charges against Mr. Hashmi are based on the allegation that he allowed an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to use his cell phone and to stay with him at his apartment in London where he was pursuing a Master’s degree. According to Mr. Hashmi’s indictment, Babar had waterproof socks and rain ponchos in his luggage that he later delivered to al-Qaeda in South Waziristan. Mr. Hashmi denies all charges against him.

In their letter, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, and the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY urge the Attorney General to review and revise the Department of Justice regulations governing the imposition of severe Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) to ensure that all prisoners are held in humane conditions, are not subjected to discriminatory treatment, are given adequate information about why SAMs are being imposed, and are given a full opportunity to argue and present evidence against their imposition.

Two days ago, CCR publicly condemned the government’s attempt to frighten the jury in Mr. Hashmi’s case, calling the U.S. Attorney’s motion for the jurors to be anonymous and kept under extra security because of the attention and political activism these issues have drawn to the case “a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty.”

Open Letter from Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY on the upcoming trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi and the severe Special Administrative Measures to which he is subjected :

On April 28, Syed Fahad Hashmi is scheduled to be tried in the Southern District of New York on charges of material support for terrorism. Mr. Hashmi has been held in pretrial detention at the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, pursuant to Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, for almost three years now. These measures have severely limited his ability to communicate with the outside world and effectively placed him in solitary confinement, although he has not been convicted of any crime.

Mr. Hashmi is 30 years old, was raised in Queens and attended Brooklyn College before moving to London to obtain a Master’s degree in political science. Since his extradition to the United States in May 2007, he has been imprisoned alone in a cell and not permitted to speak, worship or otherwise communicate with any other prisoners. He is not permitted any visitors or outside communications, except for his attorneys and limited visits from immediate family. He is not allowed any physical human contact, even from his closest family members. Mr. Hashmi is allowed one hour per day of physical exercise, which must be taken alone, in a small cage inside the prison. He is not permitted access to any natural air or sunlight. Moreover, Mr. Hashmi is subjected to a strip-search before his one hour per day of exercise. Due to the resulting humiliation he experiences, he has chosen to forego this hour outside of his cell altogether.

In addition, Mr. Hashmi is subjected to constant surveillance, not only when he is alone in his cell but also when he showers, uses the toilet, or meets with an attorney or family member. He may not communicate with any members of the media, and he is forbidden from listening to a television or radio news program or reading a timely newspaper.

Mr. Hashmi’s family, friends and attorneys are extremely concerned that his mental health is rapidly deteriorating under these extreme conditions. It is well-documented that solitary confinement can have severely detrimental effects on a prisoner’s mental health. It may also affect his ability to effectively participate in his trial and to present his defense.

Muslim community groups are increasingly expressing concern about these prison conditions, as they seem to be imposed disproportionately on Muslims suspected of connections with terrorism.

SAMs may be imposed on a particular inmate, according to the Department of Justice’s regulations, when such measures are “reasonably necessary to prevent disclosure of classified information,” or when “reasonably necessary to protect persons against the risk of death or serious bodily injury.” To be extended beyond the initial 120-day period, the Attorney General or federal law enforcement must demonstrate that such measures are reasonably necessary “because there is a substantial risk that an inmate’s communications or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons, or substantial damage to property that would entail the risk of death or serious bodily injury to persons.”

The material support charges against Mr. Hashmi are based on the allegation that he allowed an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to use his cell phone and to stay with him at his apartment in London where he was pursuing a Master’s degree. According to Mr. Hashmi’s indictment, Babar had waterproof socks and rain ponchos in his luggage that he later delivered to al-Qaeda in South Waziristan. Mr. Hashmi denies all charges against him. These charges will be the subject of his trial.

We are concerned that Mr. Hashmi has not been informed of the reasons for the imposition of SAMs. We are also concerned that Mr. Hashmi is being held under conditions that are not consistent with international standards for humane treatment. Due to their likely impact on his mental health, we are further concerned that these conditions will prejudice his ability to assist in his own defense.

The Department of Justice stated last year that 46 inmates around the country were being confined pursuant to SAMs. Although we recognize that the department has a legitimate interest in protecting classified information that may harm national security and in protecting the public against acts of terrorism, we are very concerned that inmates held pursuant to such measures are not being given an adequate opportunity to defend against the imposition of SAMs in their cases.

We urge the Attorney General to review and revise the agency’s regulations governing the imposition of SAMs to ensure that all prisoners regardless of their security status are held in humane conditions, are not subjected to discriminatory treatment, are given adequate information about why SAMs are being imposed, and are given a full opportunity to argue and present evidence against their imposition.

Amnesty International USA
Center for Constitutional Rights
Council on American Islamic Relations - New York

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Photos & Videos of Children to Challenge Us to Love Better


Photo of young girl found from time of happening and recovery of Northern Pakistan/Kashmir earthquake - end of 2005 or into 2006


Afghanis break the global, violent silence with love 53 sec - Rated 5.0 out of 5.0

"Our Journey to Smiles" Afghan Videos were broadcast live on Saturday March 27 6:30 pm at Historic Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington USA with simultaneous broadcasts in Washington DC, Conn & New York...hear about American 15-year-old Elisa and her Afghan friends - See here

And see here

हिंदू नव वर्ष के पूर्व रैली निकाली ...

----------
Another featuring children...also a lullaby for love
Written by Canadian UNICEF Ambassador here

-----------
Select words from "Arms Wide Open" ----Creed (upon the birth of a child)

(chorus)
With arms wide open
Under the sunlight
Welcome to this place
I'll show you everything
With arms wide open
With arms wide open

...We stand in awe, we've created life

...I hope he understands
That he can take this life
And hold it by the hand
That he can greet the world
With arms wide open

Girl students at Pitao Banda Primary Feeder School in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province.

Updated: Ibn-e-SAFI reviewed upon occasion of 1st English translation

Credit for the portrait of Ibn-e-Safi goes to the official home page

UPDATED 11th May, 2010 NOTE: There is more information on a new post as of 10th May, 2010 from Rashid - as well as in the Comments below this post. Add your own. However, none anonymous, plz, due to problems with these. Please, readers and followers of our beloved writer of the Imran series - do let us know where some of us in other countries might order BOTH the English "House of Fear" and the URDU version at the same time! Some of us are really perplexed and sad not to be able to get our hands and eyes on this first English copy both for our own reading as well as for a language tool. Thanx for stopping by! Connie

NOTE: At end of post I have added a few more links sent by an astute regular follower of items related to the great writer, Ibn-e-Safi ...

“ Nuclear and Hydrogen Bomb experiments were beyond their comprehension. They could not figure out why a person is incarcerated in a mental asylum when he turns mad and why when a nation turns mad, we start calling it a Power ” Ibn-e Safi

=====================================

Here's a condensed review of Pakistani's Most Prolific and most Popular Writer Over Time - a small collection of updated old and new information. Please add your own favorite sources, quotes, books and more under post in Comments.

Happily, with the first Ibn-e Safi book just brought out in English (Random House, India, is the only source I can find right now), readers will also be able to find a growing amount of material on this famous author on the web. Recently, someone who knows the Safi work well suggested that reading these novels can help teach and improve one's URDU. (Perhaps with the new English volume to use at the beginning?) I am eagerly awaiting my Urdu and English version - with the preface by Ibn-e Safi's youngest son.

For the official site, go here This Ibne Safi website is maintained by Mohammad Hanif Saheb) Also for more material considered part of this official information - Go here

Ibne Safi (1928-1980) is the pen name of Asrar Ahmad, the best-selling and most popular author of mystery and detective novels in the history of the Indian Subcontinent’s Urdu literature. His initial works date back to the early 1940s, when he wrote from India. After the partition in 1947, he migrated to Pakistan, and penned his later novels there. So strong was Ibne Safi’s impact on the Subcontinent’s literary scene that his novels were translated into several regional languages. It was not unusual for Safi's books to be sold at black market prices in Pakistan and India, where they were originally published every month...

The settings in Ibne Safi's novels are such that the reader is never told the national origin of the heroes. Since Jasoosi Duniya was created before the Partition of the Subcontinent, the names of the characters and their locales suggest that the novel takes place in India. The advent of Imran Series came post-Partition, and the reader is set up to assume that the narrative is situated in Pakistan.

Besides their native countries, the main characters of both Jasoosi Duniya and Imran Series have had adventures around the world – Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, Pacific Islands, Zanzibar, South Africa, the United States of America, and various other places. Considering that Ibne Safi never left the Indian Subcontinent, the detailed descriptions he provides of the diverse localities are surprisingly accurate.

Many a time, Ibne Safi created fictitious settings for his stories. The magical web of his writing is so captivating that these fantasy lands have become real in the minds of readers. Avid fans of the author are experts on the people and cultures of Shakraal, Karaghaal, Maqlaaq, Zeroland, and many other imaginary domains.

In cities around India and Pakistan, one can find discotheques, bars, night clubs, and hotels named after venues found in Ibne Safi's novels. Some places worth mentioning are: Dilkusha, Fizaro, Niagara, Tip Top, High Circle, etc.

This below is from freebase dot com - first excerpts:

According to one of his autobiographical essays, someone in a literary meeting claimed that Urdu literature had little scope for anything but sexual themes. To challenge this notion, Ibn-e-Safi began writing detective stories in January 1952 in the monthly Nikhat, naming the series Jasoosi Dunya. In the preface of Jasoosi Dunya's platinum jubilee number Zameen Kay Baadal, he mentioned those novels of Jasoosi Dunya whose main plot were taken from Western literature and which included Daler Mujrim, Pur-asraar Ajnabi,, Raqqasah ka Qatal, Heeray ki Kaan and Khooni Pathar. Furthermore, he also mentioned some characters, which were borrowed from English fiction, such as Khaufnak Hangamah’s Professor Durrani and Paharron ki Malikah’s White Queen and Gorilla. He claimed that other than those novels and characters, his stories were his own creation, and even the mentioned novels had borrowed only ideas and were not translations.

Ibne Safi created the Imran Series in 1955 when he migrated to Karachi, where he lived until pancreatic cancer caused his death in 1980 on July 26, on his 52nd birthday. Coincidently, his date of birth and date of death is same i.e. July 26. His characters were as well-known and popular among his readers as legendary fictional characters like Sherlock Homes...

A few latest updates on Ibne Safi can be seen at here including coverage of an official program which was held in Karachi arts Council for the first time in 29 years at an official level.

...His son Dr. Ahmad Safi (who is the Managing Director of a Software House and himself is a literary person) told me (the archive-keeper) that when his (Ahmed's) elder brother visited Italy, he was surprised to see Lake Como as it was so truly depicted by Ibne Safi in one of his best serial Adlava. Considering that Ibne Safi never left the Indian Subcontinent, the detailed descriptions he provides of the diverse localities are surprisingly accurate.

The question of Ibne Safi’s literary merit is still unsettled yet according to Khurrum Ali Shafique (researcher, writer) " it seems as if the tables have already started tilting in his favor. One obvious reason is that those who used to read his novels, hiding themselves from their elders under bed-sheets, are now well into their forties and fifties. They are teachers, professors, writers and parents. But they are also old friends of Safi's like Dr Abul Khair Kashfi (died May 15, 2008), one of the few senior critics of that generation...

Mr Kahild Javed (Dehli-India)gave the names of those great western writers who have created detective characters in their novels/works, this includes Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Zadig by Voltaire (1694-1778), Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), Human Comedy by Balzac 1799-1850), Adventures of Cabb Williams by William Garden , Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), A Gun for Sale by Graham Green etc. Many literary personnel generously admired Ibne Safi including Poet, Ajmad Islam Amjad, Columnist Hasan Nisar, Writer Bushra Rehman, Indian Poet/Writer Javed Akhtar (in an interview to Ms. Munni Kabir), Dr. Gopi Chand Narang etc. However, at a seminar in Mumbai in 2007, legendary Urdu writer Intizar Husain, who apparently tried to shock the audience with the comment that he ‘had neither read Ibne Safi nor felt he was important enough‘, invited flak for his comments. There was severe criticism of the comment on the stage itself. Several litterateurs reminded Intezar Hussain that though one may be entitled to his personal views, and his literary status apart, Ibne Safi can’t be simply dismissed as just another writer.

Find much more at freebase dot com here

Some choice and unexpected quotes here

Find another thorough site with many topics on Ibn-e-Safi here

For an enormous and well-organized library of many archived materials, go here

From Wikipedia where there is some great basic information (some not widely-known) on this prolific, beloved author and hopefully room for more yet - where experts can edit if needed:

Sir Ibn-e-Safi (also spelled as Ibne Safi) (Urdu: ابنِ صفی) was the pen name of Asrar Ahmad (Urdu: اسرار احمد), a best-selling and prolific fiction writer, novelist and poet of Urdu. The word Ibn-e-Safi is an Arabian expression which literally means Son of Safi, where the word Safi means chaste or righteous. He wrote from the 1940s in India, and later Pakistan after the partition of British India in 1947.

His main works were the 125-book series Jasoosi Dunya (The Spy World) and the 120-book Imran Series, with a small canon of satirical works and poetry. His novels were characterized by a blend of mystery, adventure, suspense, violence, romance and comedy, achieving massive popularity across a broad readership in South Asia.

Agatha Christie once said, "I don't know Urdu but have knowledge of detective novels of the Subcontinent. There is only one original writer - Ibn-e-Safi."

=========================
Here are two ordering venues if you are in the right location and maybe more opportunities will open up soon! here and here

Details of Book:
The House Of Fear
Author: Ibn E Safi

ISBN:
8184000979

ISBN-13:
9788184000979

Publisher: Random House
Number of Pages: 228

===============================
Hello, I just received the following delightful collection of items (including some in URDU) on 4th May 2010 from Mr. Rashid Ashraf – Administrator of one of the most thorough and interesting sites covering the works, history and related items for Ibn-e Safi...

(see recent comment below for original note)

"The information is worth reading. Thanks for referencing (site) here and my Business Recorder article on Ibne Safi. I also invite you to read my fresh articles on Ibne Safi sahab...:

here

To watch videos of different literary personalites/friends of Safi sahab, just visit the youtube Achieve: here

This year on July 26, Ibne Safi lovers will be surprised to watch a wonderful program on Safi sahab. Details will be revealed later.

Franklin Graham: A Man of Prayer? More from NC- USA


Franklin Graham, a brand-name evangelist (the son of Billy Graham), has repeatedly denigrated Islam - not (just}...fundamentalists who engage in terrorism, but the entire religion. Franklin Graham, 07/21/06. (photo: Rich Herard/HERARDMEDIA.COM/flickr) Found at readersupportedmedia dot org

Imagine if a leading American imam decried Christianity as an "evil" religion and then was invited to participate at a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon. How would conservative pundits, shouting heads, bloggers and politicians react? There would be denunciations, calls for rescinding the invitation, demands for explanations from the Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and questions hurled at the Obama White House. Fox News execs could only be happier if this occurred during sweeps weeks. But if a prominent Christian evangelist described Islam as an "evil" religion and subsequently received a similar invitation, would the same thing happen?

Read Rest at the Original Site: politicsdaily dot com here or try this link here

I went to the original site and under 175 or so comments, I put mine--

The comment "The Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition comes to mind" was well put. How can we be so blind as to even bring this to any one's mind - especially those in lands where we occupy and kill civilians right and left...and then go in for the "Second Kill" when our bombers thing the rescuers are returning to those screaming for help?

Didn't our Christian leader once say, "love your enemies" and do good to those who hate you?

Besides, this special day is, after all, a day of prayer not one of evangelizing or debate...so why not choose our best people of prayer? And there are so many who would easily receive Jesus' description: "Blessed are the Peacemakers"...Sadly during Desert Storm, Franklin criticized his father on supporting the war when he went to areas where people were being displaced and deprived of essentials...what happened? Same thing, maybe, that happened to our WNC Heath Shuler...maybe "The Family" strikes again?

Friday, April 23, 2010

More on Obama in Asheville NC


Credit to Asheville Citizen-Times - President Barack Obama's cars and advance team arrives at Asheville Regional Airport Thursday morning. (Gary Civitello/Special to the Citizen-Times)

UPDATING: Still not much more but a video (Obama and Michelle eating at 12 Ribs) & news feed more from Mountain Xpress: here News sure seems to have muted the peace protests but am awaiting some good write-ups from the peace folk soon.

A dear friend and our son both reported on seeing the staff cars and the feeling of elation to see Obama so close to home. Sadly, as long as the wars/occupations and the crimes related continue to go on - there's certainly no enthusiasm on my part. (Except as we can use each opportunity for peace.)

From Asheville Citizen-Times - Not too much to this article except reporting the flurry that might happen for any celebrity. Notes on the GOP's comments and the Tea-party protest...

As expected, we'll need to look elsewhere for reports on those protesting the wars/occupations...

See full article and video here

This Comment page is sorely in need of some PEACE & Justice comments soon (I plan to do so after taking pets for a walk): here

Back soon to give you some REAL reports on Peace Activism from peace friends in Asheville area...

OBAMA in Asheville, NC Today (Fri) : No More War: 4-6 p. m ET: Peace Rally on Charlotte St. Bridge

OBAMA is in Asheville, North Carolina this Weekend. Let's let him know that we expect him to live up to his Nobel Peace Prize!

"Accepting peace prize, Obama defends war" MSNBC caption Read the full text of Obama's speech : here and see hundreds of comments.

Always be as peaceful as possible. Peace is always possible. (Take off on a wise saying about kindness always being possible.)

Peacetown Asheville Announcement

WHAT: Welcome Barack Obama to Peacetown/Asheville and tell him: No More War.
(he's "vacationing" at the Grove Park Inn this weekend)

WHEN: Friday, April 23 from 4-6 p.m.

WHERE: Charlotte Street Bridge

Parking across from Starbucks on Charlotte Street. Bring your own signs, or we will have signs and banners at the demonstration.

Please alert your friends. The more people, the better. There will be international press in Asheville this weekend, and this is a chance to let the world know that Asheville stands for Peace, that we welcome Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama here, and that we say loud and clear No More War.

Demonstrations such as this are legal and have been done in the past without incident.

CONTACT: Steve Norris, 777-7816, for more information.
--
"The time is past when good women and men can remain silent, when obedience can segregate people from public risk, when the poor can die without defense." Daniel Berrigan

=========================

Afghan protesters shout anti-American slogans during a protest in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on April 12 after international troops opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians, killing four people.

Civilian Deaths Threaten Support For U.S. Offensive by Jackie Northam Audio this am during Morning Edition 7 1/2 minutes: here

STOP BLACKWATER! (and other mercenaries/contractors/"special forces" here

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A VICTORY in the case of US war resister Marc Hall!


Over the (past) weekend, (Iraq Veterans Against the War) IVAW learned that the Army has dropped all charges against Marc, and he has been released from confinement in Kuwait. IVAW's efforts along with Courage to Resist and the pressure of supporters like you successfully forced the Army's hand.

Marc had this to say via phone from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait:

"I'm out of the confinement facility! Thank you to everyone for all the efforts everyone made. Hopefully I'll be home very, very soon. I appreciate all of the love and support so many people gave me through my ordeal."

Marc had been detained for over 5 months and was recently shipped to Kuwait to face court martial over a song he recorded criticizing the Army's Stop Loss policy of involuntary extensions. He was due to be Stop-Lossed after already serving a tour of duty in Iraq.

Public pressure and donations to Marc's legal fund allowed his legal and support team to prepare an effective defense. After the Army learned that his civilian lawyer, David Gespass, had been approved for a visa to travel to Kuwait, they gave in. (Gespass serves as the President of the National Lawyers Guild.)

Hall will receive a general discharge under other than honorable conditions, which will prohibit him from receiving any military benefits. But Gespass is working to get his discharge upgraded. For now, Marc is just happy to be free and out of the military.

(for those who signed and supported this effort)

Your efforts have helped to free Marc. On behalf of Marc, we thank you.

Sincerely,

Iraq Veterans Against the War

FIND OUT MORE from Courage to Resist here

APOLOGIES FOR VERY INAPPROPRIATE ANON. COMMENTS which sometimes I am unable to delete quickly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beit Sahour: a microcosm of Israeli colonization



Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, EI 19 April 2010

Recent construction in the Har Homa settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Forced by Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, the US president delivers a "rare rebuke" of an ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins "construction of a new housing project in East Jerusalem" despite the risk of drawing "fierce, and possibly violent, Palestinian protest, along with international denunciations," as reported by The New York Times. While this may sound like a news summary from the last month, these are in fact news reports from 1997, as Israel began work on Har Homa colony.

A number of commentators have pointed out a sense of déjà-vu about Netanyahu's current premiership. But while today's gaze is fixed on colonies like Ramat Shlomo -- home to the 1,600 new housing units announced during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit -- or right-wing settler expansion in Sheikh Jarrah, little has been said about what has since happened to Har Homa, the colony which caused a stir during Netanyahu's previous time in office.

Har Homa's impact on the Palestinian community has been devastating, with the town of Beit Sahour now dominated by the ever-expanding settlement. While many are aware of Beit Sahour's famous nonviolent resistance during the first Palestinian intifada (1987-1993), less well-known is how Israeli rule continues to choke the town. Har Homa has been instrumental in that respect, and it plays a role in the latest settler-driven attempts to take over more land at Ush al-Ghrab, the site of a vacated Israeli military base. Located on the edge of Beit Sahour, the Israeli military has returned to the site while right-wing settlers campaign for the area to become the new settlement of Shdema.

A strategic colony

After 1967, Israel moved quickly to unilaterally and illegally expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, expropriating land from West Bank villages in order to do so. As reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz on 13 February, Beit Sahour lost 1,200 of its 7,000 dunams (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters), or 17 percent of its total land. Moreover, a May 2009 report by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) entitled "Shrinking Space: Urban contraction and rural fragmentation in the Bethlehem governorate," found that the Bethlehem governorate, which includes Beit Sahour, lost around 10 square kilometers to Israel's land confiscation.

In his book, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, the ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem, stated that for Israel the "determining consideration" in the "delineation of the borders" of occupied East Jerusalem was "'a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs." He argues that this logically led planners to Palestinian land "on the outskirts of the city and surrounding it" (154-55). Further land loss would follow -- meaning that the amount of non-built-up land available for Beit Sahour for development and growth has been reduced to around 600 dunams.

Israel's creation of the Har Homa colony in the 1990s and its ongoing expansion has been instrumental not just in the direct expropriation of land from Beit Sahour residents, but also in restricting the community's ability to naturally expand. According to Separate and Unequal: The inside story of Israeli rule in East Jerusalem by Amir S. Cheshin, Bill Hutman and Avi Melamed, the allocation of land for the establishment of Har Homa -- a third of which was owned by Palestinians from Beit Sahour and nearby Um Taba -- was "never connected with the planning of the neighborhood." Instead, the goal was to "expropriate as much undeveloped land as possible in the area, to prevent Palestinians from building." In particular, Israel was "concerned that Palestinian construction would eventually link up Palestinian villages in southern Jerusalem with the nearby West Bank towns of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem" (p. 58).

Separate and Unequal also reveals that in April 1992, a senior official close to then-mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek wrote to then housing minister Ariel Sharon, explaining how the land confiscated for Har Homa would "'straighten the line' of the Jerusalem municipal border." The letter explained that the "immediate battle" was over connecting the Jewish settlements of Gilo, East Talpiot and Givat Hamatos. Otherwise, it warned that Beit Sahour and the nearby Palestinian town of Sur Baher would be connected (p. 59).

Indeed, Har Homa has continued to expand over the years, with further residential units being added. Currently, a new expansion of hundreds of homes referred to as "Har Homa C" is awaiting implementation, having been submitted for public review in 2008.

Settler graffiti in Ush al-Ghrab.
The same strategy to connect Israeli settlements and deny Palestinian villages the ability to expand is now being applied in Ush al-Ghrab. Establishing a settlement at Ush al-Ghrab will serve to consolidate Israel's Judaization of the area between Jerusalem and the Bethlehem-Beit Jala-Beit Sahour urban triangle and prevent the possibility of Palestinian territorial contiguity.

Nor is the strategy a secret. Haaretz reported on 4 February that Herzl Yechezel, the leader of the Har Homa "local committee," spoke at a settlers' ceremony about the importance of contiguity of Shdema, and Har Homa in order to prevent "the spread of Arab construction." Yechezel has previously described Har Homa "as a thorn" sitting between Palestinian villages and towns.

An apartheid regime

The loss of land and establishment of settlements has been "complemented" by Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank, checkpoints and bypass road 356. This matrix of control has further defined the boundaries of this Palestinian enclave. According OCHA's "Shrinking Space" report, the path of Israel's wall has placed olive groves belonging to Palestinians from Beit Sahour on the "wrong side." It stated that these groves are "now only accessible through two gates" that are opened "for limited periods during the annual olive harvest." According to an 11 April 2009 Reuters report, Israel's wall has also meant that residents in a Beit Sahour housing project -- having narrowly avoided outright demolitions -- will be completely encircled, thus "forcing residents to enter and leave via a gate controlled by Israelis."

Like the wall, bypass road 356 is designed to contain the growth of Beit Sahour. The road connects Har Homa and occupied East Jerusalem with the Israeli settlement of Teqoa in the southeast. Opened in 2007, the road stretches for 19 kilometers in the Bethlehem governorate and onwards to Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank near Hebron. As Nate Wright described in a 7 October article for the Middle East Report, bypass road 356 is "effectively demarcating the city limits" of Beit Sahour while strengthening the eastern Gush Etzion settlements. Therefore, it is imposing limitations on "prospects for growth and the larger socio-economic future of the Bethlehem area."

Beit Sahour is emblematic of the situation across the occupied Palestinian territories. According to a May 2008 report by OCHA entitled ''Lack of Permit: Demolitions and Resultant Displacement in Area C," two-thirds of the Bethlehem governorate remains designated as "Area C" under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Under total Israeli control, Palestinian construction and development is almost completely impossible in "Area C." Moreover, "Area C" accounts for over 60 percent of the occupied West Bank's territory.

While settlement expansion -- or creation -- announcements make the news for a few weeks, before being forgotten, the impact of Israeli colonization continues devastate Palestinian communities. Diplomatic gestures mean nothing for towns like Beit Sahour, struggling to breathe under an apartheid regime that forces Palestinians into increasingly small, unsustainable pockets of land, policies intended to make normal life -- and a continued Palestinian presence -- untenable.

Images by Ben White.

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer whose articles have appeared in the Guardian's "Comment is free," The Electronic Intifada, the New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide (Pluto Press). He can be contacted at ben A T benwhite D O T org D O T uk.


Latest articles on EI: (Electronic Intifada)
Palestine : Human Rights: Beit Sahour: a microcosm of Israeli colonization (19 April 2010)
Palestine : Internet & Technology: Palestine's first independent think tank launched (19 April 2010)
Palestine : Activism News: Medical solidarity with Gaza: in conversation with Mads Gilbert (19 April 2010)
Palestine : Art, Music & Culture: Film Review: Simone Bitton's investigative documentary, "Rachel" (16 April 2010)
Palestine : Human Rights: "In the eyes of the state, we don't exist here" (16 April 2010)
Palestine : Role of the Media: Did banned media report foretell of Gaza war crimes? (15 April 2010)
Palestine : Human Rights: Adding torture to injury (15 April 2010)
Palestine : Art, Music & Culture: Film review: Missed opportunities in "Checkpoint Rock" (15 April 2010)
Palestine : Opinion/Editorial: Israel's manufactured outrage over a presidential palace (15 April 2010)
Palestine : Opinion/Editorial: An immaculate conception? (14 April 2010)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Government makes rare admission of civilian killings



Credit for this map goes to Tribune dot Com here

Following article found here

Provincial Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani had conceded on Monday that the security forces were misinformed about the presence of militants in Peshawar: Up to 72 civilians, including a large number of women and children, were killed in an air strike by warplanes in the scenic Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency on April 10, authorities have admitted.

“More than one hundred people, mostly civilians, were also injured in the air raid in a village of Tirah Valley on Saturday,” Malik Haji Israr, Agency Counselor for Kokikhel tribe in Khyber Agency said. The strike targeted a threestorey building owned by local tribesman Shermad Khan.

”The house was bombed on absolutely wrong information,” Khanan Gul Khan, a resident of the village told Associated Press news agency.

But what compounded the situation was that people who rushed to the site to carry out relief activities after the first bombing were targeted in a second strike. Dilla Baz Khan suffered a fractured arm in the second attack, which he said came around two hours after the first one. “We were about to pull out a lady from the rubble when another jet came and bombed us,” he said from the orthopedic ward of the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar.

“Then I lost consciousness.” Speaking to The Express Tribune, Khan Baz, a resident of the Sra Vela village in Tirah, said that families in the area lost several members. “Five members of Haji Muhmmad Roz’s family, four members of Jamil’s and six member of Mughal Shah’s family were killed. They were all innocent civilians,” he lamented.

Khanan Gul Khan said many of the families in the village had sons serving in the security forces and that it had a history of cooperating with the army. He said the owner of the targeted house had two sons serving in the paramilitary Frontier Corps. “This area has nothing to do with militants,” he emphasised.

Provincial Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani had conceded on Monday that the security forces were misinformed about the presence of militants in the area before the bombing raid. In a statement he regretted the incident and promised that action would be taken against the informants. The statement was read out by political authorities to a grand assembly of elders from Kokikhel tribe who inhibit the Tirah Valley. The governor also announced compensation for the affected families. Dilla Baz Khan said an official from the Khyber political administration visited him on Monday and give him $220 for the loss of four relatives, including his brother. “He said we are sorry for this and we pray for your early recovery,’’ he said. On Tuesday, workers of almost all political parties including the ruling ANP protested against the Tirah Valley air raid.

The protesters who marched from Khyber Pass till the Press Club demanded that the amount of money given as compensation should be increased. Earlier on Monday, army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas had denied that any of the dead in the air force attack were civilians, saying the army had intelligence that militants were gathering at the site of the strike.

The victims were initially reported to be suspected militants. “This has been happening across the board. This wouldn’t happen if there was an institutionalised system of accountability,” former ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand told The Express Tribune. Brief reports of significant civilian casualties in the strike have appeared in the local media in recent days, but have not attracted much attention or criticism.

“The seven people killed in Abbottabad attracted attention across the country, but the deaths of these civilians went almost unnoticed in terms of publicity,” notes Mohmand. Meanwhile, intelligence officials said a missile attack late Monday close to the town of Miranshah in North Waziristan killed four suspected militants. However, Noor Gul, a resident in the village, disputed that, saying 13 civilians, including two children, were killed.

WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AP

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RECOMMENDED ACTIONS: COMMENT on articles such as these in their various postings/publications - showing that whatever the motives, such admissions of gross error or inhumanity are appreciated immensely - and we notice.

My Comment:
These killings have been of grave concern in Pakistan and the same sort of killings and Second Return killings are abhorrent whether done once and killing one or killing dozens as has happened so often. Whoever does these inhumane acts - whether by the US military in Iraq, Afghanistan or done/encouraged in Pakistan and around the world - we demand and expect apology. We in the US also need to speak out about the same often done and even "trained" to do by US. Remember Israel in Gaza and in Lebanon (where parts and vehicles of killing have been shown to have large names designating they come from the USA)!

So what are those of us who remain silent saying to the people of these lands (often with nowhere else to go or to live? Often the poorest among the poor or those who have chosen voluntarily to live, work and lead among these poor?).

Beyond protests and strong anti-war positions along, we also need to show we notice these incremental steps toward more humanity and compassion in such war activities.

Would that the US would more often follow suit in their most heartless actions in war and occupation now for well over a decade (counting Desert Storm) and even earlier going back to Vietnam. (We must also keep observing the parallels as well as the differences to that war/occupation.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

NEW on Dr. Aafia & UPDATED items from the "war on terror" - Pakistan/Afghanistan


TIRAH VALLEY
"In what may well be the deadliest single incident of violence against civilians in the Tirah Valley in nearly 400 years..." (Now that is quite a statement for one of thousands of such articles!!...How many historians are noticing? CLN blogger here)
Photo and quote courtesy of Anti-war dot com and article by Jason Ditz

This is an Associated Press photo just out on the recent Quetta killings allegedly due to a suicide bomb. The wounded were evidently near a hospital.

During this same period of time, also note the enormous cost in terms of life by the Pakistan Military (not unlike similar "blunders" or detrimentally aggressive actions
by the US and Israeli military in recent years and even months since Obama took office.

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Looking for the brief item on Dr. Siddiqui? Look below in this post.

Looking for items on the Peoples Resistance Protest of Civilian Killings? Plz go to the several posts below this one...which include links to Teeth Maestro and many photos of that very recent event at the Karachi Press Club (KPC)

Here is that striking "earlier" story on the Khyber bombing (which some of you may want to file since it's not as available today as yesterday:

At Least 70 Civilians Killed as Pakistani Jets Bomb Khyber
By Jason Ditz April 11, 2010 @ 3:39 pm originally posted at antiwar dot com

In what may well be the deadliest single incident of violence against civilians in the Tirah Valley in nearly 400 years, Pakistani military jets bombed a village in the Jamrud Tehsil of the Khyber Agency portion of the valley, killing at least 70 civilians and wounding some 50 others.

Pakistani military officials were quick to deny the toll, and claimed in the state media that they were targeting “militants” who were massing to attack a military checkpoint.

But local officials said the real story, as it so often is in Pakistan’s tribal areas, was quite different. They reported that the jets bombed a home in the village, killing three children and two women who were inside, and laborers working on a nearby water channel massed in an attempt to rescue anyone who might be trapped inside.

This was when the bulk of the casualties occured, including one of the tribal elders of the region, as the jets came back and bombarded the rescuers, killing and injuring a large number of them. The house that was initially attacked belonged to a member of the Pakistani Army, who expressed “surprise” to learn that his house had been bombed and then dismissed as a “militant hideout.”

Article printed from News From Antiwar.com: http://news.antiwar.com

(LOOKING for the related Press Releases on the Protest of the Civilian Killings by Pakistan Citizen groups? GO ONE POST DOWN)

Latest in on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui Friday April 16, 2010: Court no longer considers her a "missing person" - urges taking up the case with US - GO here

SHOCKING DRONE STATS - percentage of civilian killings: Some stats unknown or ignored by much of global press today - by a notable and respected blogger/writer of Asian news and commentar-y - GO here

NOTE from
Oneheart blogger

Isn't it time to address ALL crimes against humanity- particularly in this Afghanistan-Pakistan part of the world right now? We know from history - even recent history - that occupations unprovoked (for which actual reasons have yet to be given their REAL name) have made cooperation between those who seek the peoples good much worse.

We see that hiding and covering up crimes -- excuses flippantly offered followed by admission when caught then the weakest of apologies are often continuing without letup. In fact, these are leading to gross and mushrooming evils of all kinds. We are bound to excise these acts -- many called war crimes by our own US Army field manual as well as by the international documents to which we've signed on.

IF NOT, by what standard will we as US/Nato/Pakistan Military "rid world of terrorism" when such strategies and acts daily beckon that same label "terrorists" from the people we pretend to help to/for the state sanctioned perpetrators?

Thus these who claim to "protect the people" are in many instances not only NOT helping efforts to provide security yet in many situations truly making matters much worse. Where is there accountability to the people and to the international documents for human decency?

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April 16, 2010

Pakistani journalists mourn a death of their colleague in Quetta, Pakistan on Friday, April 16, 2010. A suicide bomber attacked a hospital emergency room where Shiite Muslims were mourning a slain bank manager on Friday, killing eight people including a journalist and two policemen in Pakistan's main southwest city, police said. Photo from Associated Press QUETTA, Pakistan April 16, 2010, 07:49 am ET

A suicide bomber attacked a hospital emergency room where Shiite Muslims were mourning a slain bank manager on Friday, killing eight people including a journalist and two policemen in Pakistan's main southwestern city, police said.

A suspected U.S. missile strike, meanwhile, killed four alleged militants in the country's northwestern tribal belt, officials said.

The explosion in Quetta underscored the poor security conditions in Pakistan, a U.S. ally where sectarian violence remains a problem even as al-Qaida and Taliban militants pose a growing -- and linked -- threat. It wasn't the first time that Shiite mourners have been attacked at hospitals in Pakistan, evidence of a tactic in vogue for their Sunni extremist foes.

Gunshots rang out after the explosion at the Civil Hospital, and rescuers carried away the dead and wounded, TV footage showed.

Among the dead was a cameraman working for Pakistan's Samaa TV, said Saifuddin Khan, a hospital official. Two policemen also died, while 35 people were wounded in the apparent "sectarian attack," said Qazi Abdul Wahid, a senior police investigator.

Journalists were at the hospital covering the aftermath of Friday morning's shooting of the bank manager, who came from a prominent Shiite family. A gunman shot him as he stepped out of his car outside the bank on a major city road, officials said.

The emergency room was full of his friends and relatives when the bomber struck at the gate, police official Mohammad Sabir said.

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, and it is believed to be a major center for the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. However, the violence that occurs in Baluchistan has been blamed on Baluch separatist groups or tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

In February, suspected Sunni militants bombed a bus carrying Shiite worshippers and two hours later attacked a hospital treating the victims, killing 25 people and wounding 100 in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

And in August 2008, a suicide blast outside the emergency ward of a hospital crowded with Shiite Muslim mourners in the volatile northwest town of Dera Ismail Khan killed at least 27 people, including two police.

Suspected Sunni extremists also have attacked funeral processions of Shiite Muslim mourners.

Extremist Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan have targeted each other's leaders in violence that dates well before the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. But several of Pakistan's Sunni extremist groups also are allied with the Taliban and al-Qaida, who view Shiites as infidels.

The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam's Prophet Muhammad dates to the seventh century.

The alleged missile strike took place in the Toorkhel area in North Waziristan, a tribal region filled with al-Qaida and Taliban fighters focused on attacking U.S. and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.

At least four suspected militants were killed, said Noor Ahmad, a government official, and two intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

The exact identities of the dead were not immediately known.

The U.S. has frequently targeted North Waziristan in its campaign to kill al-Qaida and Taliban leaders using missiles. Washington rarely discusses the covert assassination program. Pakistan publicly protests the missile attacks as violations of its sovereignty but is widely believed to secretly aid them.
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